The Arvon International Poetry Competition 2008

Deadline: 15th August at 5pm

The Arvon International Poetry Competition 2008 is now open!
2008 marks Arvon’s 40th birthday and the 14th Arvon International Poetry Competition. The competition is open to all poets around the world and poems are entered anonymously. There are no line or subject matter restrictions.

The judges for 2008 are UK Poet Laureate Andrew Motion, Moniza Alvi and Alice Oswald.

The deadline for entries is 15th August at 5pm.

Prizes –

Classic FM First Prize – £5000
Second Prize – £2500
Third Prize – £1000
Three commendation prizes – £500 each.

Ted Hughes Environmental Poetry Prize
of £1000 plus a selection of Ted Hughes publications.


When Ted Hughes suggested a poetry competition in 1980, and invited Charles Causley, Seamus Heaney and Philip Larkin to judge it with him, neither he, nor the other judges, nor the Arvon Foundation – which was to be organiser and beneficiary – had anticipated such a mighty response. Just before Christmas that year, the judges gathered to select the winning poems from a total entry of 35,000.

Philip Larkin, shrewdly it now seemed, had agreed to be a judge on condition that he read only the short-listed poems. Not so the other judges who read all 35,000. London Weekend Television’s South Bank Show made a programme showing how the judges worked and how they selected the winner: Andrew Motion. It was the sheer size of the public response, and the manner in which the judges took it on, which established the Arvon Poetry Competition as a literary event of real significance.

The competition has continued to flourish and the 2004 competition will be the twelfth. Since the beginning, distinguished poets have willingly agreed to judge, and they have been joined by journalists, reviewers and publishers. Sometimes the panel has been as many as eight, sometimes only three. Sometimes the judges have been exclusively men, sometimes women; more often a mixture of the two. Sometimes, after the short-list has been agreed, the business of selecting the winners has taken days, once it was completed in a single morning.

The conditions of entry have remained unchanged. Entries must be written in the English language and must not have been previously published. There are no restrictions on subject matter, form, or length. Long poems, excluded from many other competitions, have figured prominently and achieved first prize several times. Jo Shapcott, one of the 2002 judges, wrote “The Arvon poetry competition is unusual in that there is no restriction on length for poems entered. This gives the competition a seriousness and quality others don’t have simply because it recognises that the short lyric poem, however luminous and marvellous, isn’t the end of the story”.

Most important or all has been the firm rule of anonymity which means that the judges know the authors of each poem only by a number. As a result a completely unknown poet has the opportunity to compete on equal terms with someone who is published and widely read. This helps to attract little known as well as established poets and to ensure that the winning poems reflect the abundance and range of today’s poetry. This is well demonstrated by reading the 500 poems – prizewinners and those selected for special commendation – which have appeared in the nine competition anthologies to date.

Since 1982 the competition has been supported by Duncan Lawrie Limited, Private Bank. This sponsorship means that the Arvon Foundation continues to benefit from entry fees (this year it is £6 per entry) as Ted Hughes proposed it should in 1980 when he launched the first competition. The proceeds from the competition are vital in supporting Arvon’s work to encourage new writers and new writing. Arvon, a registered charity, was established in l968 to encourage and support writers.

Terms and conditions

1. The Arvon International Poetry Competition is open to people all over the world.

2. The Competition is organised by, and on behalf of, The Arvon Foundation. It is open to anyone, except those working for The Arvon Foundation, Telegraph Media Group and Classic FM.

3. No competitor may win more than one of the main prizes, although the Ted Hughes Environmental Poetry Prize could be won by a competitor who has also won another prize.

4. There is no age restriction.


5. The organisers reserve the right to change the panel of judges without notice, or to appoint more judges.

6. The decision of the judges will be final and the organisers will not enter into any correspondence about the results. The promoter reserves the right in its absolute discretion not to award any prize or prizes in the event that there are insufficient entries or the entries are not considered by the judges to be of a suitable standard.

7. There will be a first prize of £5,000, a second prize of £2,500, a third prize of £1,000 and three prizes of £500 each. A Ted Hughes Environmental Poetry Prize of £1000 and Ted Hughes publications is also being offered. All the winning poems and any poems the judges may wish to select for special commendation will be published in a Competition Anthology, which will be available to purchase from 15th October 2008.

8. The winners will be notified by 1st October 2008. There will be a reception for all prizewinners on a date to be confirmed.


9. All entries for the competition must arrive no later than 5pm on 15th August 2008. We can accept entries online and through the post, accompanied by a valid entry form.

10. Each entry must be a poem, of any length, on any theme, written in the English language.

11. Each poem must be the original work of the author and not a copy nor a substantial copy of any work and it must not have been previously published or broadcast, or have won a prize in any other competition.

12. Competitors may submit as many poems as they wish provided that each poem is accompanied by an entry fee of £6 (pounds sterling).

13. The entry fee must be paid for either with a credit or debit card, or a cheque drawn on a bank in the UK. All credit and debit cards will be debited with UK pound sterling entry fees. Sterling cheques must be made payable to The Arvon Foundation. Arvon can not accept dollar or euro cheques. Entries can be submitted and paid for online.

14. Receipt of entry will not be acknowledged unless, for competitors resident in the United Kingdom, a separate self-addressed and stamped envelope marked ‘Receipt of Entry’ is enclosed with the entry or, for competitors resident outside the United Kingdom, a separate self-addressed envelope marked ‘Receipt of Entry’ is enclosed with the entry and an extra £1.00 (pounds sterling) for postage is added to the entry fee. Please note this is not a receipt of payment.

15. Manuscripts will not be returned.

16. The names of the winners will be posted on the Arvon Foundation website on 15th October 2008.

17. The world-wide copyright of each prize-winning poem, and of any other poems selected by the judges for special commendation, will remain with the author, but The Arvon Foundation and the Telegraph Media Group shall have the unrestricted right to read the poem on television, radio or the stage, or to publish it in whole or in part at the time of the prize–giving, or at any time up to twelve months after the prize–giving.

18. All entrants shall be deemed to have read and accepted all the conditions of entry for The Arvon International Poetry Competition 2008.


19. Please provide two copies of each poem submitted on paper.

20. Entries will be judged without the panel of judges knowing the identity of the competitors. The competitor’s name or other identification must not be typed or written on manuscripts.

21. The entries must be attached to an entry form. One entry form covers multiple entries.

22. Poems must be typed on one side only of A4 (i.e. not double sided).

23. Do not use staples or paper clips.


24. Arvon takes no responsibility for any technical failure preventing entries submitted online from entering the competition. In the event of a fee being paid but entry not being made due to technical failure, Arvon’s liability will be limited to the entry fee paid.

25. It is the responsibility of the entrant to ensure that they complete the online submission process in full, along with any payment process. Correctly submitted entries will be acknowledged by email.

26. Any correspondence concerning an entry made online will be made by email. It is the entrant’s responsibility to provide correct email and other contact details and Arvon will not be liable for any loss caused by failure to receive messages sent to the address given by the entrant.

The Judges

Alice Oswald lives in Devon and is married with three children. Dart, her second volume, won the T. S. Eliot Prize in 2002. Her third collection, Woods etc (both Faber and Faber), won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize 2006.

Andrew Motion was born in 1952. He read English at University College, Oxford and subsequently spent two years writing about the poetry of Edward Thomas for an M. Litt. He has been Professor of Creative Writing at Royal Holloway since 2004. Andrew Motion was appointed as Poet Laureate in May 1999 and his latest collection of poems is Public Property. In The Blood is his autobiography (both Faber and Faber).

Moniza Alvi was born in Lahore, Pakistan, and came to England when she was a few months old. She grew up in Hertfordshire and studied at the universities of York and London. Moniza Alvi has written five poetry collections including A Bowl of Warm Air (1996), one of the Independent on Sunday’s Books of the Year and, most recently, Europa, a Poetry Book Society Choice, and Split World: Poems 1990-2005 (all Bloodaxe Books). In 2002 she received a Cholmondeley Award for her poetry.

How to enter the competition:

Download the entry form and submit your poems through the post

Enter your poems online

Keep up-to-date by signing up for an e-newsletter.
Arvon International Poetry Competition

PO Box 38530,

Telephone: 020 7931 7611

If you need assistance, please call the national office.
Source: Arvon Foundation

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